Glassboro and Clayton
Gloucester County, New Jersey
Glassboro and Clayton, New Jersey
Bright and Harris Residency 1900 ...
New Jersey, The Garden State!
This statement applied especially to South New Jersey, Gloucester County during the early 1900-1960s. Glassboro was the point of arrival for my maternal and paternal grandparents. Jesse and Lula Gant Bright, James and Anna Belle Neblett Harris migrated from Florida and Virginia. The Bright family settled in Glassboro, New Jersey and the Harris family in Clayton, New Jersey. Their children and my parents are Clarence Mack and Mary Bright Harris.
The one constant factor for these newcomers from the south was the promise of a thriving New Jersey agriculture and its social and employment benefits. Also, racial tensions were less prevalent, although not absent, in the north. My ancestors grew many of the same agricultural products in the north as they did in the south such as sweet potatoes, greens, white potatoes, peanuts, black-eyed peas, and others. However the northern winters were colder and more severe. Personal and civil freedoms that they experienced in the "new" north were appreciable. They found a new life and hope. Negative memories of the old south were seldom discussed with successive generations.
South Jersey Glass
Glassboro and Clayton, New Jersey, as well as many other South Jersey towns, owed their existence to pioneer glass "blowing" companies or houses, bountiful agriculture, and wild game. In 1775, the seven Stanger brothers established the first glass house in Glassboro. Later, Clayton Glass Works was started by the Moore Brothers and it was located several blocks from the home of my Harris grandparents. My father, Clarence Harris, used to take me to the ruins of the Clayton Glass Works to search for glass collectibles.
The Italian Connection
Newly arriving African Americans and Italians to the Glassboro, N. J. area initially settled around the Lake and Popular Streets section of town known as Uptown or In-Town. Later, African Americans moved to South Glassboro, the "Lawns" area, and the Acres and purchased their own homes, land, and small farms. These areas of town were originally occupied by African Americans but white families eventually moved into these areas in search of attractive real estate opportunities. Many cultural ideas and benefits were exchanged between early Italians and African Americans. A fig tree was given to my grandmother by an Italian neighbor. My grandmother devised ways of protecting the tree from harsh New Jersey frost and winters. The tree produced many generations of beautiful figs. White and purple grapes were shared and grown for years. In many cases, foods that my ancestors brought from the south were shared and exchanged with the Italians for their Mediterranean spices, herbs and foods.
Like so many African American families, my family depended and relied upon the "church" for its survival and sustenance. However when I was growing up, I couldn't understand why there were so many different African American churches in a small town like Glassboro, despite the personality differences that some of these newcomers obviously had. My theory is that families arriving from southern states tended to worship together due to the need of security and familiarity. Thus, you had a predominance of Virginians and Floridians in local churches like First Baptist Church in Glassboro and a majority of Virginians in St. Paul Baptist Church in Clayton, N. J. My home church, Mt Olive Baptist Church, was located on Lake Street several blocks from the site of my grandparent's first home. Mt Olive Baptist Church recently changed its name and location to The Christian Community Church, 5 Redmond Avenue, Glassboro, New Jersey. The original Glassboro High School(later a Catholic school), down the street from the Mt Olive Baptist Church, was demolished due to highway construction and urban renewal.
This area of New Jersey was and still is a good place to raise children. My past social relationships and friends are still meaningful!
For more information concerning New Jersey, go to Surname Research Tools for interesting New Jersey links and history.
Note: To see a 1929 map of Glassboro, Gloucester County, New Jersey, go to 1929 Glassboro Map.
Early Glassboro African American Communities
Glassboro, New Jersey
The Lake and High Streets Region
To my knowledge, the area around the center of town was primarily the earliest African American cenralized settlement in Glassboro. It was shared with Italian neighbors. After arriving in Glassboro, John Wade Bright(my great grandfather) lived on Glen Lake Road. I believe this street later became Lake Street. William(Uncle Bill), Jesse(my grandfather), and Lula(my grandmother) Bright lived a few blocks away at 10 Popular Street. Robert Henderson Bright(my great-great grandfather) lived with his son, John Wade Bright, for awhile but returned to Florida where he died. Also, Nehemiah(John Wade 's son) and Alma(Aunt Lizzie) Bright stayed with John Wade Bright for awhile before they purchased their home in the same general area.
The Eighty Acres (later Elsmere) Region
This community is located on Ellis Street in the southwest area of Glassboro. It was established by the Farm Security Security Administration (FSA) in 1929 as a rural rehabilitation project, this effort never really got off the ground. Vacant lots were homesteaded by farm workers who worked on nearby corporate farms. Also, World War II German prisoners, used as farm labors, were housed in barracks here. For photos of this area, click here, then scroll down the page to "Eighty Acres" in Glassboro, N.J.(series of photographs), an excellent historical web site.
Historic School: Elsmere School
Primary Principal: Name forthcoming
The South Glassboro Region
This area, south of town center, is roughly bordered by South Main Street, Delsea Drive (Rte. 47), and Stanger Avenue.
Historic School: South Glassboro School
Primary Principal: Dorothy Latney Bullock, my teacher and mentor, was one of the first African American women to graduate from The New Jersey Normal School (name changed to Glassboro State Teachers College and later to Rowan University). Mrs. Bullock had a long teaching tenure. For years, this school's kitchen provided hot home cooked meals to its students. Mrs. Latney, Mrs. Bullock's mother, was the cook.
The Lawns Region
This is a pioneer community with the most independent structure, located south of town center and mainly dispersed around Stanger Avenue.
Historic School: The Lawns School
Primary Principal: Ina Bright Hull, my aunt and mentor, was one of the first African American women to graduate from The New Jersey Normal School (name changed to Glassboro State Teachers College and later to Rowan University). Her teaching tenure exceeded thirty years, and the governor of New Jersey honored her service. Mrs. Bright and Mrs. Bullock were close friends. For more on these early schools and their teachers, see The Lawns School.
Note: These New Jersey schools were either separate or segregated prior to the 1960s. Please see The Turbulent Years.
Please see Small Towns Black Lives for a glimpse of surrounding areas. Also, My Family Churches and Cemetery.
Dr. Don Harris
Harris Surnames |
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